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Gas vs. Electric Chainsaw: Which One for Your Project

If you have a job that requires a chainsaw, you might be wondering: is a gas or electric chainsaw better? Chainsaws are great power tools to cut down trees, cut up firewood, or prune back that tree limb hanging a little too close to your roof. Whatever your outdoor project, ensure you have the right chainsaw for the job to stay safe and get the most out of your tool.

Basics of a Chainsaw


Chainsaws are used to “fell” or cut down trees, make firewood or do “bucking” to make felled branches more manageable, to prune or limb branches, and to make rough cuts in wood projects. They are not designed for fine woodwork as their cuts are rugged. Even electric chainsaws are intended for outdoor use only. There are a few different types of chainsaws: gas-powered, electric, and cordless. Even though they are powered differently, the basic features are generally the same.

  • Guide Bar: Also known as a cutting bar, it is a long metal bar on the front of the chainsaw that the chain runs around as it cuts. There are different bar lengths depending on the type of chainsaw and its use.
  • Front Handle and Back Handle: As you should always hold a chainsaw with two hands, the front handle is for your left hand to stabilize while you cut, and the back handle is for your right hand to guide the cut.
  • Chain Break: This is a lever in front of the front handle that can be pushed back and forth to keep the chain from moving while starting up or in case of kickback. The chain break is normally a hand guard as well to protect against debris or a loose chain.
  • Nose: This is the front tip of the chainsaw bar and chain.
  • Catcher: This is a safety feature on the chainsaw that will catch the chain if it breaks while in use to keep it from flying into the user.
  • Oiler: On a modern chainsaw, this provides a lubricant between the chain and the bar to keep the chain moving smoothly around.
  • Bumper Spikes: These are spikes at the backend of the chain bar where it attaches to the motor part of the saw. The spikes help hold the chainsaw in place against the wood.
  • Anti-Vibration: Most modern chainsaws now have anti-vibration systems that reduce fatigue while you cut.
  • Air Filter: The air filter helps to remove debris like sawdust and wood chips from the chainsaw as you cut.

The Right One for Your Project


The right chainsaw for you depends on your lifestyle. Do you just need to prune a few branches? Or do you have several acres of cedar trees you wish to clear? Let’s break down your options:

Gas Chainsaw: This is the most powerful chainsaw as the gas engine cuts larger trees easily and has the longest guide bar options. The longer the bar length, the bigger the job. These chainsaws are typically used by professional tree trimmers or property owners with large (and lots of) trees to cut.

If you are looking at a gas chainsaw, a main feature to consider is engine displacement. Gas chainsaws will have a cc or cubic centimeters number that relates to the engine cylinder volume and gives the user an idea of how powerful the engine will be. The bigger the job, the more power you need to be able to cut. Starting a gas chainsaw has a few steps, but it is done by opening the engine choke and pulling the start cord. Gas chainsaws will require more maintenance than electric or cordless varieties.

Electric Chainsaw: These chainsaws are lighter weight than gas and great for the everyday homeowner as they are quieter. If you have some trees to prune, but don’t expect to be yelling “timber” anytime soon, an electric chainsaw is the better option. Not only are they generally more cost effective, but they are also easier to use as you simply plug them in with an extension cord instead of having to deal with gas. This gives users unlimited runtime without the need to stop to refuel. Just remember to keep the chain away from the cord! If you decide on an electric chainsaw, look at its amperage to determine its power.

Cordless Chainsaw: Cordless chainsaws are a type of electric chainsaw that rely on battery power. These are similar in size and weight to a corded chainsaw and will work well for around-the-house jobs. The batteries used to power a cordless chainsaw are rechargeable and without the cord, giving users freedom to move around the yard. Another advantage of cordless chainsaws is they are also quieter than gas, making it great for the neighborhood. When looking at a cordless chainsaw, the voltage will help to determine its cutting power.

Chainsaw Safety


To avoid re-enacting a horror movie scene, proper chainsaw care and safety is important. When using a chainsaw always wear personal protection equipment including:

  • Thick Gloves
  • Head Protection that includes safety glasses, face shield, helmet, and ear protection
  • Thick Chaps

4 Quick Safety Tips:

  1. Don't use a big, powerful chainsaw for a smaller job as the power could be too much causing you to lose control while cutting.
  2. Kickback is a common concern among chainsaw users. This happens when the chain hits something hard like a nail then jumps up and back. This can cause serious injury to the user. Some chainsaws have a chain brake system that will stop the chain if this occurs. However, to help avoid kickback injury, never cut while standing directly over the chainsaw bar, cut a little to the side of you. Never cut with the tip of the chainsaw and make sure anyone else is away from the cutting area.
  3. If you are using a gas chainsaw, never refuel while the saw is hot. Be sure to start the chainsaw away from any gas to avoid sparks and fires.
  4. Proper maintenance will help to avoid some accidents. Much like a car, make sure the chain is well oiled and the air filters are cleaned regularly. After each use, do an inspection to ensure nothing is damaged and sharpen dull chains.

McCoy's Power


Whichever chainsaw you choose, McCoy's is here to help. If you have a suburban lawn with pruned shrubs or a few acres with lots of trees, McCoy's has all you need from chainsaws to lawn edgers to loppers. Shop hundreds of new products online and easily pickup in-store!